Fingernail issue sends convicted Lufkin meth cook to prison

Steven Gardner (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Steven Gardner (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A convicted meth cook who had been working to turn his life around has been sentenced to five years in prison for cutting his fingernails after he was told not to do so in a March court appearance because the judge wanted to have drug testing done.

"They said the fingernails weren't long enough to get a good sample," said Billie Jean Johnson, Founder, Lufkin Dream Center.

Steven Lance Gardner, 36, of Lufkin, appeared in Judge Barry Bryan's 217th Judicial District Court Thursday. During the sentencing hearing, Bryan said that the drug test came back inconclusive because Gardner had cut his fingernails, and he samples given weren't sufficient.

"It was heartbreaking, Iunderstand that there are consequences for our actions however that was hisformer life," said Johnson.

Gardner was given five years for one felony possession of a controlled substance charge, two years for another possession charge, and another two years for a theft charge. Barry said Gardner's sentence will be concurrent, meaning that he will serve the three prison sentences at the same time.

"God started a work here inSteven and I'm confident that he'll complete it," said Johnson.

In February, East Texas News did a story on how Gardner has been trying to turn his life around.  He has been working as the ministry coordinator at the Lufkin Dream Center. Gardner said in the capacity he has been planning fundraisers and outreach ministries for children in need.

"I was pretty much on the streets most of the time," Gardner said in a previous story. "I did have some drugs on me. They only place I had to stay was the motel."

In the previous story, Gardner said that he tried drugs at an early age at home with his parents.  He said he has been in and out of jail for drug use most of his life.

"We try to show love to the kids; we pass out Bibles. Give clothes away, give food," Gardner said.

Gardner pleaded guilty to one of the possession of a controlled substance charges on Feb. 1. His court appearance Thursday came after a period of pre-trial investigation.

According to a previous story, Gardner had been cooking meth in a room at the Sun and Pines Motel in Lufkin. Angelina County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Gardner on outstanding warrants on Oct. 11, 2011 and obtained a warrant on the additional possession charge on Oct. 19, 2011.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, narcotics officers went to Sun and Pines Motel, located at 208 South Timberland Dr., after receiving a call that Gardner was cooking meth in one of the motel rooms.

Two deputies responded to the motel and spoke with the front desk clerk, who confirmed Gardner's room. The deputies went to the room and reported smelling a meth lab. They knocked on the door and a woman answered.

Gardner was in the room and deputies reported seeing items consistent with a meth lab. Gardner said the items were his and the woman had nothing to do with the lab, according to the report.

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